Time is Brain

Karen Schaefer, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC
May is Stroke Awareness Month. Karen Schaefer, the advanced practice manager of the stroke program at The Miriam Hospital, takes this opportunity to explain how to identify a stroke and how to reduce your risk.

In the health care world, we like to say that time is brain. When it comes to a stroke, every second counts. If you wait too long to seek medical attention, it may be too late for treatment. That’s why being able to recognize the signs of stroke are so important.

How do I recognize a stroke?

All stroke symptoms are sudden and it is important to “Think F.A.S.T.”

F – Face – drooping on one side of the face

A – Arms – weakness or numbness in one arm

S – Speech – slurred speech

T – Time is brain –saving time saves brain cells – time to call 9-1-1

It is vital that you do not ignore these symptoms, even if they go away.  Call 9-1-1.  Note the time when you first noticed symptoms, as the care team will ask you what time they began. This will help determine if you are eligible for immediate treatment.

Calling 9-1-1 is vital because the rescue team can begin your care as soon as they arrive. They can also call ahead to the hospital’s emergency department to alert them that you are on the way.

Strokes are largely treatable. Clot busting drugs and medical treatments are available but every second counts.  The faster a patient is treated, the more likely they are to recover without permanent disability.

Types of strokes

Ischemic strokes: About 83 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes – an obstruction in a vessel supplying blood to the brain occurs.

Hemorrhagic strokes: Only about 17 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic.  This type of stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs): TIAs are a warning sign of a stroke.  In a TIA, conditions indicative of an ischemic stroke occur and the typical warning signs develop.  However, the obstruction (blood clot) occurs for a short time and then resolves itself.  Although symptoms disappear, TIA’s are a strong predictor of a major stroke.  You should see your doctor immediately and take preventative steps to reduce your risk of future strokes.

Reduce your risk factors

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association estimates that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. While some risk factors like age, gender and family history can’t be changed, you can take steps to reduce your chances of having a stroke:

  • Don’t smoke or seek help to quit smoking
  • Avoid abusing alcohol and drugs
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Know the warning signs

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